You may be dreaming about tying the knot on the sand or overlooking the ocean. In nearly all of our initial calls with couples thinking about planning a destination wedding, the number one question we hear is about the average cost of a destination wedding. Is it a more affordable option than having your wedding in your home town? What are the benefits financially? Unfortunately, it’s a complex answer as it depends on many factors.
In this article, we explore the price of destination weddings in depth by discussing the factors involved and some tips to save money for you and your guests.
Ultimately, the answer of how much a wedding costs will differ for every couple, but you can at least build an approximate wedding budget before deciding. Our award-winning team with decades of experience has planned hundreds of weddings, primarily at resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean. Still, this information should also be relevant if you’re looking at other destinations worldwide. We hope you find this helpful.
A destination wedding has the same essential elements as a wedding in your hometown. You’ll still want your dress or suit, invitations, wedding rings, flowers, a photographer, a reception with delicious food and drink, cake, music, and an officiant for the ceremony.
Most of these elements are often made easier to choose for you by resorts offering you wedding packages to choose from. They are usually flexible and give you lots of options. You will also find that resorts provide incentives to help reduce the cost of your destination wedding event. (More on this later)
Factors such as travel, accommodations, group activities, and a destination wedding planner are the elements that will be additional costs.
However, a destination wedding is more than just a wedding. It is a vacation for you and all your guests – usually 4 or 5 nights long in the beautiful sunshine. Therefore some couples view the travel and hotel costs as expenses from a ‘vacation budget’ rather than the wedding budget.
According to Google, the average cost of a destination wedding in 2023 is $30,000.
This average of $30,000 includes the typical airfare, accommodation, and other expenses.
Destination weddings in Hawaii, Europe, or other exotic locales likely drive up this average. Weddings in Mexico or the Caribbean – locations most of our clients choose – are more likely about $15,000 to $20,000, excluding travel.
You can hear directly from brides like Sherese, Paige, and Julia about how they planned their destination wedding and the factors they considered for their budget.
The most significant factor in this is how many guests you have at your wedding and how luxurious a resort you choose. Smaller weddings will naturally come in a little lower.
Typically you, the couple, will pay for the wedding day event, including a cocktail reception, a reception, and a sit-down meal with drinks and entertainment.
Your guests will usually pay for their flights and accommodation at the resort.
Many couples pay for other elements as part of the destination wedding, for example, a welcome party, a group excursion, and a farewell brunch. You don’t have to do this, but it is a nice touch, especially when your guests travel a great distance to attend your wedding.
It can be overwhelming when thinking about creating your budget for your destination wedding – we get it. However, we strongly recommend that you make a budget and stick to it where ever possible – this will help you in the long run! Some resorts also offer a planning sheet or calculator that can be a helpful starting place.
First, open up a spreadsheet and list all possible categories you may want to consider.
As a quick guide, we’d suggest starting with the following:
You’ll find a range of options within each of these categories. For example, you can have a simple wedding with white linens, garden chairs, and basic flowers. Alternatively, you may opt for a rooftop venue with a premium venue cost, an aisle lined with extravagant flowers, and a 12-piece live band.
Next, do your research to start filling in the average costs for each element.
If you know which country or region you want, speak to a travel expert about typical packages from popular resorts in that area.
We always recommend adding a line in your budget for contingency – we all know that extra costs will crop up along the wedding planning journey, so it is sensible to have a little cash aside for this (5-10% of your budget ideally.)
Here we discuss some tips for saving money on your destination wedding budget.
The number of guests that attend is the number one factor in the cost of your destination wedding.
The guest count will influence your decision, starting with the venue. Some resorts are perfect for smaller groups or have limits on how many guests they allow at weddings, so you must be strict with your guest list.
Alternatively, some resorts offer more significant incentives for the more people that attend, so your overall cost per head may decrease as you invite more people.
Some of your favorite people may not be able to attend a wedding abroad, so it will be a different list than a wedding closer to home.
For more details on how many guests we advise you to have and why it’s so important to figure it out early, we delve more into that in our article here.
You can save money by booking your wedding date slightly out of the peak season.
Generally speaking, there’s an inverse relationship between the weather in the northeastern United States and the prices in Mexico and the Caribbean. So in January and February, when it’s cold in New York, it’s more expensive in our top destination wedding venues.
Shoulder seasons like April and May and October and November will have lower prices for flights and hotels.
You’ll also want to avoid public holidays and kids’ school breaks, where prices generally spike. Having an extended Memorial Day in Mexico may sound fun for everyone, but the resort and flight prices will be higher, and resorts will have blackout dates for promotions.
Instead of spending money on printing out invites and then paying for postage, you could use a wedding website and digital invitation, which may be completely free.
Little things that bring down the average cost of a destination wedding all add up!
Our team provides a booking site for your guests, but this is another excellent way to host all the information guests need for your wedding in one place.
Not only does this cost little or even nothing, but it’s also better for the environment, and it tracks all your RSVPs digitally, saving you time!
If you decide to go this route, we recommend you create your website as soon as your venue and room block contracts are confirmed.
Your bridal hair and makeup are essential to feeling your best on your wedding day. But you don’t need to hire someone for the task – you can teach yourself!
With the help of your maid of honor and bridesmaids, you will surely be able to find someone confident with hair styling and makeup.
Watch video tutorials together, and once you know the look you want – practice, practice! Your girl squad will be on hand throughout the day to help pin any fallen curls or fix makeup smudges.
Make sure you leave enough time for your hair and makeup on the wedding morning, as it often takes longer than you think. Also, remember that your hair may do different things in the humidity of a warmer climate.
If you want something other than the DIY route, the resort will have trained staff to assist with your hair and has worked with a diverse mix of brides, so they’re well-equipped to handle your hair and makeup needs.
Your dedicated travel planner will be able to get rates and perks that are better than those the resort will give you directly.
We can discuss the incentives and offers for your specific resort. For example, the Cash for your Bash promotion at Karisma Resorts allows you to redeem credits for decor, events, rooms, and more.
These incentives can sometimes equate to a lot of value to spend on things like flowers, a dance floor, or a DJ.
Some exclusive incentives are often only discussed if a destination wedding expert is involved and asking the right questions, but they are a terrific way to bring down the average cost of your destination wedding.
We strongly recommend a destination wedding expert, like our award-winning team, to help plan your destination wedding. We can offer expertise and unrivaled advice for your wedding, and we travel to many resorts multiple times per year.
Most importantly, we know tips and tricks to save you money, bringing the average cost of a destination wedding as low as possible.
Our team helps you pick the resort, negotiate contracts, and manage all the questions and bookings for your guests. You’ll also be assigned an onsite wedding coordinator at the resort you work with.
A recent study by Theknot.com showed that 70% of couples who chose an international destination wedding hired a wedding planner, compared to 31% of those who married in their hometown.
Depending on the size of your wedding and your level of comfort in planning an event, some couples we work with decide to hire a wedding planner beyond our team and the onsite wedding coordinator.
A typical planner will offer full planning, month of coordination, or day of coordination. The most significant benefit is that these planners are typically local to the location and, similar to us, have been to and worked with the resort numerous times. Their familiarity and expertise can significantly benefit you as you go through the planning process for your wedding events.
Our couples who opt for planning tend to have 100+ guests and multi-day affairs, like South Asian weddings.
Considering your guests’ expenses, consider requesting no gifts for your wedding. It’s a thoughtful gesture to let people know that their presence at your wedding is more important than any present. And if anyone wants to get you a gift anyway, then that is their decision!
What better way to fully understand the average cost of a destination wedding than looking at one of the most popular packages from a resort we often work with?
Dreams Resorts are located throughout Mexico and the Caribbean and their ‘Beyond Memorable’ wedding package is one of the most popular.
The Beyond Memorable package costs $7,500 for up to 50 guests or $11,999 for up to 100 guests and provides a ton of value.
This wedding package includes four private events:
In addition to the private wedding events, you will also receive:
Considering how beautiful and luxurious the Dreams resorts are, this is a terrific value for money. You can add extra features, such as a photographer, live band, etc., with access to the best rates.
The Beyond Memorable package must be booked for a wedding date at least one full year in advance, which aligns with our recommendation for when you should start planning your wedding.
Hopefully, you can see how much is included in the Beyond Memorable package and why it’s one of the most popular choices by couples we work with.
The Beyond Memorable package is just one example of a popular destination wedding package, but other resorts offer similar wedding packages to this one. Our team can advise you on which one might be the best fit for you and your guests.
We hope you have found this article helpful for your destination wedding planning. There is no way to give you an exact average cost because there are many factors, such as the number of guests, time of year, and details of precisely what you want for your wedding. We hope this has been an excellent place to start and provided some insights on what you can expect to pay for your destination wedding.